EL PAÍS, VANGUARDIA, CORREO (Spain), GUARDIAN (U.K.), DER SPIEGEL (Germany)
BILBAO - Two Basque independence parties have triumphed in regional elections in northern Spain’s Basque country this weekend, the latest sign of growing separatist sentiment in crisis-plagued Europe.
The two parties together took nearly two-thirds of the vote, 48 of the 75 Basque legislative seats being contested. The Basque country, currently the most prosperous region of Spain with a long and sometimes violent movement for independence, already has its own police force, parliament and president.
According to the Vanguardia, a Catalan newspaper, the results show the victory of the moderates in the independence movement.
The second-largest vote was for the EH Bildu, a separatist coalition including the political wing of the ETA, which renounced terrorism last year and was thus allowed to field candidates for the election.
The second party, PNV or Basque Nationalist Party, is also in favor of some form of autonomy from Spain, the Guardian reports. The former ruling party, the socialist PPOE party, got 16% of the vote and the conservative party of current Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy only 10 %, reports El País.
The new prime minister of the Basque country is 52-year-old Iñigo Urkullu, an abertzale, or Basque independentist since the age of 16. He has called for a “bilateral relationship” with Spain.
A former teacher and career politician, Urkullu “leaves nothing to chance, always knows what he wants,” comments El País. PNV president Andoni Ortuzar declared that “the results mean that this country wants to advance toward building a nation and social development, leaving the crisis behind, and that it wants a peaceful way to independence,” reports Basque country newspaper El Correo.
Rajoy's conservative party, which won a victory in another northern region, Galicia, this weekend, has vowed to stop any moves toward independence on the part of the Basque country or Catalonia, where polls show a narrow majority in favor of independence from Spain, the Guardian said. The Catalans are voting in November on a referendum for independence.
In recent weeks, one million Catalans marched for independence from Spain, a Scottish referendum for independence from the U.K. has been scheduled for 2014, and Flemish nationalists made advances in a municipal election in Belgium earlier this month, electing a separatist mayor of Antwerp, Belgium’s largest city, reports Der Spiegel.
Even German-speaking South Tirol, which was incorporated into Italy from Austria in 1918, and whose unemployment rate is only 4%, is complaining about being part of debt-ridden Italy. Der Spiegel notes that secession from any member country would present the European Union with a thorny question: would the new nation also be part of the EU?